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PTC city manager ousted; documents show rift with mayor

REVISED VERSION 5:32 p.m. Oct. 25, 2010 — The annual performance evaluation of Peachtree City City Manager Bernie McMullen, whose separation agreement was unanimously approved Thursday night by the City Council, showed that Mayor Don Haddix had dissatisfaction with the way McMullen was performing his job.

In a written rebuke of that May evaluation, McMullen said he felt the evaluation “is a libel attack by Mr. Haddix because of the fact that I have opposed him on issues such as the renovation of the police headquarters building in 2008. I challenged his unfounded claims and looked out for the citizens of Peachtree City.”

The city spent $800,000 to repair the police station instead of building a new one on a different location as Haddix suggested at a projected cost of $3 million or more.

Following Haddix’s critical review of McMullen, Councilwoman Vanessa Fleisch filed a glowing review of the city manager’s performance in late September. In that letter, Fleisch noted that the city charter requires the mayor and City Council to conduct the review “and it is my impression that the written evaluation was completed prior to any kind of input by council which is not in keeping with the spirit of the city charter.”

The Citizen has asked for a copy of the separation agreement approved by the City Council Thursday night that will result in McMullen’s last day being Dec. 31. City spokesperson Betsy Tyler indicated that document will be available tomorrow (Tuesday) but also provided a host of other documents sought by The Citizen, including the performance evaluation authored by Haddix and also McMullen’s written response to the evaluation.

Mayor Don Haddix today declined to comment on any of the details contained in the separation agreement.

One of the more significant allegations in Haddix’s evaluation of McMullen was that McMullen was being forwarded blind carbon copies of emails the City Council received from citizens “without informing Council.”

McMullen, in response, said that is not the case, but his email address has been part of the group email address for “council@peachtree-city.org” which automatically sends emails to all council members.

“Based on past experience this has enabled me to provide information and react directly to complaints from citizens if I realized that Council would not have the information to address the issue and provide answers, or it was an item that needed immediate action,” McMullen wrote.

McMullen also noted that based on the comments in his evaluation, he asked city staff to remove his email address from getting emails sent to the council@peachtree-city.org address.

Haddix’s evaluation of McMullen listed four specific shortcomings, which were rebutted by McMullen including:

• A four-month delay in reaching agreements “with certain parties” about completing the paths to the MacDuff Parkway cart path tunnel; McMullen said the delay was clearly due to a lack of funding for the project as he cited a number of emails that were sent to that affect.

• Another delay in moving the city’s Welcome Center from its previous location at the city’s tennis center to its new space adjacent to the city amphitheater offices; McMullen said that was a false statement, indicating no such delay existed;

• Stating at a workshop that the city’s tennis center “was an asset that should not be considered for sale,” despite having said earlier at City Hall that “selling the tennis center was good for the city.” McMullen in his rebuttal denies ever making such comments, noting that he and Finance Director Paul Salvatore responded to then councilman Haddix’s questions about the tennis center in 2008 to say that the advantage to selling it would be a savings to the city of the $247,000 in loan payments the city is making.

• Haddix also claimed that McMullen said he had “no knowledge” of a city director requesting that the city’s Library Commission dissolve itself without consulting Council in advance. McMullen also denied this suggestion, saying he knew of the request from Leisure Services Director Randy Gaddo, which was backed up by emails on the topic.

In her letter on McMullen’s performance, Fleisch said she felt McMullen was always very approachable and accessible.

“He is always willing to give a straight answer to any question even if he knows we may not be in agreement on a certain issue,” Fleisch wrote.

Haddix’s May 19 appraisal of McMullen cited the following problems, among other issues:

• “Carrying out Mayoral and/or Council directives by giving instruction to department heads in a timely manner.”;

• “Notifying the Mayor and/or Council of any conflicts or problems in a timely manner.”;

• “Ensuring directives are carried out in a timely manner.”; and

• Placing items as directed by Council into the budget.

McMullen was hired in May 2003 by the City Council consisting of Mayor Steve Brown and council members Annie McMenamin, Steve Rapson, Dan Tennant and Murray Weed.

One notable issue in McMullen’s tenure was his June 2006 arrest for driving under the influence after driving a golf cart while holding a glass of wine in his hand as he drove up to two high-ranking officers following a concert at the city’s amphitheater. McMullen, who registered a .104 blood alcohol content on a breath test, above the state’s .08 BAC limit, later pled guilty to the charge in Fayette County State Court.

McMullen was sentenced to spend 24 hours in jail as required by Georgia law, an $800 fine, a year’s probation, 40 hours of community service and several other conditions such as a ban on alcohol consumption with random drug and alcohol screening.

Over the past several years McMullen has presided over deep cuts to the city’s budget as millions were scalped, necessitating the dismissal of some 23 city employees as the city switched to a landscape contractor to handling landscaping of city property including parks, medians and the like.

This year less drastic cuts were enacted as the City Council approved a 1.25 millage rate hike, meaning that some residents would pay more in property taxes this year, except for those whose property values declined such that it in effect cancelled out the tax rate increase that would have been assessed on such a property.

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FIRST VERSION 10:28 a.m. Oct. 25, 2010 —

By BEN NELMS
bnelms@TheCitizen.com

Peachtree City Manager Bernie McMullen’s last day of heading up operations for the city will be Dec. 31. The City Council Thursday night voted after executive session to accept McMullen’s separation agreement.

Mayor Don Haddix said Monday that the move is essentially an agreement to part ways. Haddix said the discussion came during the executive session portion of the council meeting last Thursday.

“(McMullen and the council) had a discussion and the council voted (in open session) to accept that he wasn’t going to be returning,” Haddix said, noting that McMullen’s annual contract expires on Dec. 31.

Haddix said he could not elaborate on the specifics of the decision or on any compensation package, noting that those issues involved confidential personnel matters. McMullen serves as an at-will employee.

Haddix said the vote to accept the separation agreement was unanimous.

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Comments

I don't think I have read an article in The Citizen with less information than this one contains.
[quote=Ben Nelms]Haddix said he could not elaborate on the specifics of the decision or on any compensation package, noting that those issues involved confidential personnel matters.[/quote]
Are we not entitled to know how much of our taxes are going to Bernie's "compensation package"?

Mike King's picture

It's simple, Emperor Don does not want to allow those that pay the ever increasing entitlements that have been put into force since he arrived on Council. Is it any wonder that 63% of city revenues go to personnel costs?

Let's see, the Mayor's salary is $12K annually and Bernie's contract is above $150K, would anyone care to comment on the mayor setting himself up to assume that role?

has to be public record. It will come out. Post it. -GP

Don Haddix's picture

As is normal, Mike King is wrong. In example my pay is $9,000, not $12,000. That is all I have to say.

<cite><strong>Don Haddix
Peachtree City Mayor</strong></cite>

Mike King's picture

The mayor spouts off, but would he dare to include all the expense vouchers he has claimed over the previous three years? Of course not!

Come on Mayor, aren't you really bucking for Bernie's job?

Pretty weak defense of a mistake!
I'll just bet that the Mayor's expenses are budgeted and approved by the whole darn council!
What good do they do him anyway personally?
Has he been to Vegas or Cozumel?

That original release that this paper printed was a fool thing for the Mayor to do and the newspaper!

Impossible to keep anything secret nowadays that occurs in broad daylight!
Why the devil issue such a stupid thing!

No form of justice would fire a person for drunken golf cart driving when it is common practice with no other arrests, and FOUR YEARS late!

This is a drunken town!

MajorMike's picture

What did you do to Mike King? Ordinarily I would accuse you of shooting the man's dog or somesuch but in this case, I just don't think Mr. Kings elevator goes all the way to the top. $9000, $12000, or even $50,000, it is not worth it if you have to put up with continual mindless abuse from some single agenda blogger with too much time on his hands.

I think most people understand that Bernie was history after the DUI on the golf cart incident. Coupled with current difficulties it was just a matter of when. I would guess that Bernie understood this too and that all parties understand that this did not happen overnight. Most unfortunate.

Let me say that overall, I think that you, and the council, are doing a pretty fair job of actually representing the citizens of PTC. Some things I disagree with you on and I'm sure that you understand that you are going to hear about it real fast when you tread on my toes. Given that/those exception(s) just keep on giving it your honest best - some of us actually appreciate it.

I don't think so. Did he have a 20 year contract or something with tenure?

I really don't see how we operate this town when half the time we don't even know who the Police Chief works for, if anybody, and the other half who the Manager works for!

Does the Fire Chief know that he can get away with murder if he wishes?

Boy I never worked anywhere that required five people to fire me!

I do understand that nowadays of PC, two are required---HR and his real boss for everything, not just work assignments.

Isn't a lawyer included in there somewhere also?

NUK_1's picture

I have no idea what type of separation they gave him and the details yet, but I see this as a major positive step for PTC. McMullen was a poor choice in the first place and confirmed that after about 2 weeks on the job and begging Council for help. PTC can do much better.

Robert W. Morgan's picture

But since we don't have one of those, we will do a nationwide search, pay a big finder's fee for a new city manager and come up with Steve Rapson (does he still live here?) or Chris Venice or Billy Beckett or someone else from the recycle bin. No one really sharp would leave a secure position to come here and work for our current leadership. I assume Haddix (and of course, Doug) will be the search committee. Should be interesting.

Bernie's severance is likely to be between 6 and 9 months salary, meaning we will be double paying that position for a lot of next year. Good for the budget.

Live free or die!

NUK_1's picture

Lot of ex-PTC people out there that MIGHT be interested

Steve Rapson is city mgr over in Union City now and as far as I know still lives in PTC. Ex-Finance Dir and Ex-Councilman in PTC. Downside is I don't think PTC can afford him and he might not want the job anyway.

Jim Williams just left Fairburn and I think he is one who will apply. Ex-Development Dir during the best years of PTC and he'd probably never left except for the Steve Brown reign of error that sent many off to Fairburn. Don't know if Haddix will be on-board since Fairburn created all the traffic problems on 74/85, according to Don. Sheesh.

Barry Amos(ex City Engineer, ex Tyrone city mgr, now Stone Mtn. city mgr) still lives here and probably would love the job, but "The Barry and Valerie Show" in Tyrone was a big fail and Amos has a lot of people who personally dislike him. He got canned under a big cloud and an entire election was basically focused on getting rid of him. I don't see him having any chance.

Billy Beckett. I can definitely see him applying. No little about him except he's had a bunch of jobs and applied for a bunch of others.

As far as employees presently with PTC and pure speculation, I can see Randy Gaddo(Rec Dir) perhaps being interested and maybe Paul Salvatore (Finance Dir). Don't see any others with either the experience or the desire.

Why, it is obvious!
A $160-180,000 job available-----Steve Brown is the obvious choice.

That piddling elective job he has now pays peanuts! Unless it is a better path to Washington or even Atlanta!

Isn't that silly----Steve doesn't need the money, for such a laboring job!

Robert W. Morgan's picture

Despite Brown's revision of history and fact concerning Jim Williams (see above), Brown's ousting of Williams, Basinger and others who were part of the despised (by him) Lenox administration was the doing of an inexperienced mayor and an insecure and immature individual who had no leadership abilities and an addiction for the spotlight. Can you imagine what this forum would have been like had it existed when Brown was mayor?

Now I am seeing some similarities between Haddix and Brown and their behavior with long-time, experienced employees who certainly have more hands-on capability than any mayor - and may have just a touch of smugness bordering on arrogance that makes the new mayor feel insecure. Does anyone else see the beginning of a rerun of the Brown comedy show that lasted for 4 seasons?

Live free or die!

and it's getting worse.

Robert W. Morgan's picture

And I really forgot about Amos.

Williams is much too smart to jump into this disfunctional council leadership of the city. Amos, of course is a parasite without any thoughts except for himself and the brown clown has never actually had a job, so one of them may get the city manager gig. No way Brown gives up the county commissioner thing and that may be a conflict, but who cares?

Live free or die!

Steve Brown's picture

In Peachtree City, Jim Williams was the Director of Developmental Services. Fairburn gave him their City Manager's position and a pay hike. There was not a whole lot we could do to keep him as Fairburn was offering him a better gig.

I enjoyed working with Jim Williams and would like to see him back.

Bernie McMullen was a nice guy and his engineering experience came in handy. A perfect example was the library expansion, on time and on budget, a PTC first.

The DUI situation was unfortunate. However, item that really had a bunch of us reeling was Bernie's creating a business partnership with then-Mayor Harold Logsdon, a major no-no.

Many had a problem with Bernie's son being hired by the PTC Fire Department.

I am certain Bernie will land on his feet and use his skill set to further the progress of some local government.

Thanks for your service to the city. I hope whatever you move on to do is fulfilling and rewarding work. I also hope that we find an experienced and pragmatic replacement. PTC is in a state of serious decline and the leadership void we have among our elected officials would benefit from having a "grown up" aboard to steer the ship. Best wishes!

PTC Observer's picture

OK now that the City Manager is gone based on your personnel review, what's the next steps?

1. Develop and coordinate a campaign to search for a replacement.
2. Review candidates resumes and conduct interviews.
3. Exclude all candidates that are in anyway shape or form assoicated with the current council members.
4. Select the most qualified candidate based on ____________, fill in the blank(s).
5. Hire the most qualified candidate.

Let's see that should take about 1 year, in the meantime? You run the city?

Does that about sum it up? Don't forget #3 now.

Don Haddix's picture

I don't want to go into the exact details as candidates current jobs need to be protected, but:
1. The job description already exists and will be posted on a widely circulated network.
2. HR does the first screening for basic qualifications.
3. A panel with someone from outside, if available, will head the initial semi finalists selection board, containing no elected.
4. Via a non quorum approach Council will interview the finalists.
5. In an executive session Council will discuss and rank the finalists.
6. In rank order the job will be offered until one says yes, usually the first on the list.
7. In a public meeting sometime after we will hire the finalist.

I believe that removes your concern for your point 3.

Hopefully the hiring will be done in 90 days max, allowing for the holidays. Then there is the matter of when the person can actually begin working due to their current job, etc.

No, I do not run the city in the meantime. Someone from Staff will be selected as the Interim City Manager.

Keeping it a clean process is a priority.

<cite><strong>Don Haddix
Peachtree City Mayor</strong></cite>

[quote=Don Haddix]I don't want to go into the exact details as candidates current jobs need to be protected[/quote]
It seems to me that when we hired Skip Clark for police chief that Georgia's open records law required government agencies to release information on the candidates. As I recall, some candidates backed out because of it.

Does this law apply to this position?

Don Haddix's picture

Here is the law:

(7) Notwithstanding any other provision of this article, an agency shall not be required to release those portions of records which would identify persons applying for or under consideration for employment or appointment as executive head of an agency as that term is defined in paragraph (1) of subsection (a) of Code Section 50-14-1, or of a unit of the University System of Georgia; provided, however, that at least 14 calendar days prior to the meeting at which final action or vote is to be taken on the position, the agency shall release all documents which came into its possession with respect to as many as three persons under consideration whom the agency has determined to be the best qualified for the position and from among whom the agency intends to fill the position. Prior to the release of these documents, an agency may allow such a person to decline being considered further for the position rather than have documents pertaining to the person released. In that event, the agency shall release the documents of the next most qualified person under consideration who does not decline the position. If an agency has conducted its hiring or appointment process open to the public, it shall not be required to delay 14 days to take final action on the position. The agency shall not be required to release such records with respect to other applicants or persons under consideration, except at the request of any such person. Upon request, the hiring agency shall furnish the number of applicants and the composition of the list by such factors as race and sex. Provided, further, the agency shall not be allowed to avoid the provisions of this paragraph by the employment of a private person or agency to assist with the search or application process;

We hired Chief Clark in 2008 and I honestly do not remember if any disclosure besides that for him was required or given.

<cite><strong>Don Haddix
Peachtree City Mayor</strong></cite>

Well, I'm glad you are being "honest" about whether any other applicants papers were released!

Surely someone down there on the Lake knows whether anyone else agreed to be considered.

I think that stupid law needs changing anyway. If we can't trust the Mayor and Council to properly hire someone (who is not a relative or Partner) then we deserve what we get.

PTC Observer's picture

Does it?

Is #3 part of the criteria of selection?

Selection of City Managers and such is done exactly like County School Superintendents are chosen---unless the decision is already made to promote the assistant from within--we have no assistant.

It comes from a list of available people---people who want a job or a better job. (The new Atlanta Airport Manager wasn't even working when hired).

That list is made up only of people BELONGING to certain professions!

They protect one another in that way about jobs.

Others may be considered but are very seldom hired.

Aren't appointed judges selected similarly? (except for the Supremes)

...good riddance to this veracity-challenged tyrant. His long reign of terror will soon be at an end. The ugliness he has shown to so many has come back to bite him in the rear end. No one deserves unemployment more than this character...he should have been gone years ago.

I never really cared about the whole DUI on a golfcart. I've had other issues w/ my dealings w/ him where I found him lacking. The budget certainly would have been better off if there had not been an "Assistant Manager" until the little toad retired. Now there was a 100k / yr waste.
I know Jim Williams will never respond on here but if you think his job title had been on the development side and the town is at build out, you might get the idea about why he left. I don't know if he had any differences w/ Steve Brown but I do know that Fairburn wanted to grow & he could (& sure did) do it. It really wasn't his job to think about how it would impact the town of his last employ.

Jim Murray is sitting back with a cold beverage, wearing his Red Sox jersey,and saying to himself...."What goes around, comes around." And he is smart enough to not be on a golf cart at the same time.

I have never understood how such people can work a half dozen places and yet still draw a pension as if they worked at one place all of the time!

Is there a great big fund that includes all of them which each authority contributes to?
Isn't that Socialism? Like Italy?

I couldn't do that in Industry.

"Haddix’s evaluation of McMullen" Funny, charter states "The city manager's job performance shall be evaluated and subject to review annually by the mayor and council." Looks like Dandy Don has decided to speak for the whole Council again without actually talking to the whole Council! Was this one a 3/2 split as well? We know at least one council member disagrees. And what does Dandy Don have to hide that the chief administrator of the city should not see e-mails that pertain to city business?

Did not see any response from the City Manager. Oh, maybe the "newspaper" forgot to include the other side. "Ousted" - maybe the guy finally decided to retire rather than put up with a disfunctional council.

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